Edward Snowdens Life As a Robot — NYMag

For a man accused of espionage and effectively exiled in Russia, Edward Snowden is also, strangely, free.

Snowden attending a TED conference in Vancouver in 2014.

Edward Snowden lay on his back in the rear of a Ford Escape, hidden from view and momentarily unconscious, as I drove him to the Whitney museum one recent morning to meet some friends from the art world. Along West Street, clotted with traffic near the memorial pools of the World Trade Center, a computerized voice from my iPhone issued directions via the GPS satellites above. Snowdens lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, was sitting shotgun, chattily recapping his clients recent activities. For a fugitive wanted by the FBI for revealing classified spying programs who lives in an undisclosed location in Russia, Snowden was managing to maintain a rather busy schedule around Manhattan.

A couple nights earlier, at the New York Times building, Wizner had watched Snowden trounce Fareed Zakaria in a public debate over computer encryption. He did Tribeca, the lawyer added, referring to a surprise appearance at the film festival, where Snowden had drawn gasps as he crossed the stage at an event called the Disruptive Innovation Awards. Wizner stopped himself mid-sentence, laughing at the absurdity of his pronoun choice: He! Behind us, Snowden stared blankly upward, his face bouncing beneath a sheet of Bubble Wrap as the car rattled over the cobblestones of the Meatpacking District.

Snowdens body might be confined to Moscow, but the former NSA computer specialist has hacked a work-around: a robot. If he wants to make his physical presence felt in the United States, he can connect to a wheeled contraption called a BeamPro, a flat-screen monitor that stands atop a pair of legs, five-foot-two in all, with a camera that acts as a swiveling Cyclops eye. Inevitably, people call it the Snowbot. The avatar resides at the Manhattan offices of the ACLU, where it takes meetings and occasionally travels to speaking engagements. (You can Google pictures of the Snowbot posing with Sergey Brin at TED.) Undeniably, its a gimmick: a tool in the campaign to advance Snowdens cause and his case for clemency by building his cultural and intellectual celebrity. But the technology is of real symbolic and practical use to Snowden, who hopes to prove that the internet can overcome the power of governments, the strictures of exile, and isolation. It all amounts to an unprecedented act of defiance, a genuine enemy of the state carousing in plain view.

We unloaded the Snowbot in front of the Whitney, where a small group had gathered to meet us for a private viewing of a multimedia exhibition by the filmmaker Laura Poitras. It was Poitras whom Snowden first contacted, anonymously, in 2013, referring to the existence of a surveillance system whose reach is unlimited but whose safeguards are not. Their relationship resulted in explosive news articles and a documentary, Citizenfour work that won a Pulitzer and an Oscar and incited global outrage. But the disclosures came at a high price for their source. If Snowden couldnt come home, Poitras at least wanted him to share vicariously in the experience of her Whitney show, Astro Noise, which took its name from an encrypted file of documents he had spirited out of the secret NSA site where he worked in Hawaii. So she had arranged a personal tour.

Outside an eighth-floor gallery, a crowd of Poitrass collaborators and Whitney curators clustered around the Snowbot as a white circle twirled on its monitor. Then, suddenly, the screen awoke and Snowden was there.

Hey! Wizner said, and the group erupted in awkward laughter. The famous fugitive was wearing a gray T-shirt, his face pallid and unshaven. (He calls himself an indoor cat.) His voice sounded choppy, but some fiddling resolved the problem, and Poitras, soft-spoken and clad in black, made introductions. Snowdens preternaturally eloquent Hong Kong hotel-room encounter with Poitras and the Guardian journalists investigating his leaks formed the core of Citizenfour, but even some of those who worked on the documentary had never met its protagonist. One of the cinematographers came forward and wrapped him in a hug.

I dont have hands, Snowden apologized. The most I can do is maybe

He scooted forward.

Sitting in the same homemade studio he uses for his frequent speaking engagements, Snowden could control the robots movements with his computer, maneuvering with uncanny agility, swiveling to make eye contact with people as they spoke to him.

Poitras began with the shows opening piece, a colorful array of prints that resembled modern abstracts but were actually found objects: visualizations of intercepted satellite signals that turned up in the vast trove of NSA documents. The whole show, theres a lot of deep research thats going on behind it, she said. She led Snowden into a darkened gallery, where a spooky ambient soundscape was playing over video footage of a U.S. military interrogation. Momentarily disoriented, he careened into a bench. But Snowden quickly figured out how to navigate in the dark. When he came to parts of the exhibit that required complicated movements lying on a platform to take in the watchful night sky over Yemen, or craning to look at an NSA document through a slit in the wall the humans hoisted him into position.

Wow, okay, I see it, Snowden said as one of Poitrass researchers held him up to view footage of a drone strikes aftermath. This is a surreal experience for a number of reasons.

When the tour was over, Snowden held an impromptu discussion, likening his decision to become a dissident to a risky artistic choice. Theres always that moment where you step out and theres nothing underneath you, he said. You hope that you can build that airplane on the way down, or if you dont, that the world will catch you. In my case, Ive been falling ever since. Still, Snowden said he had no regrets. I do have to say, he told Poitras, that I will be forever grateful that you took me seriously.

As usual, though, when the questions turned to the details of his non-robotic existence, Snowden remained courteously evasive. Whats a day in the life now? asked Nicholas Holmes, the Whitneys general counsel. Do you go for walks in the park?

Well, the Snowbot replied, I go for walks in the Whitney, apparently.

Watch the Snowbot’s visit to New York’s office.

The idea that Snowden is still walking the American streets, virtually or otherwise, is infuriating to his former employers in the U.S.-intelligence community. Its leaders no longer make ominous jokes about wanting to put him on a drone kill list as former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden did in 2013 but they still vilify him and maintain that he did real harm to Americas safety and international standing. While Snowdens leaks revealed the NSAs controversial and possibly unconstitutional bulk collection of domestic internet traffic and telephone metadata, they also exposed technical details about many other classified activities, including overseas surveillance programs, secret diplomatic arrangements, and operations targeting legitimate adversaries. The spy agencies warn that the public doesnt comprehend the degree of damage done to their protective capabilities, even as events like the Orlando nightclub massacre demonstrate the destructive reach of terrorist ideology. The fallout from Snowdens actions may have prompted a debate about security and privacy that even President Obama acknowledges will make us stronger, but there has been no such reassessment, at least officially, of Snowden himself. He still faces charges of violating the federal Espionage Act, crimes that could carry a decades-long prison sentence.

When Snowden first revealed the NSAs surveillance and his own identity to the world three years ago this month, there was little reason to believe that he would be in a position to communicate much of anything in the future. The last person to leak classified information of such magnitude, Chelsea Manning, was sentenced to 35 years in prison. (Manning, who was held in solitary confinement while awaiting trial, has largely communicated to the public through letters.) Yet so far, to his own surprise, Snowden has managed to avoid the long arm of U.S. law enforcement by finding asylum in Russia. Leaving aside, at least for the moment, the ethics of his actions (and the internal contradictions of his residence in an authoritarian state ruled by a former KGB operative), Snowdens case is, in fact, a study in the boundless freedoms the internet enables. It has allowed him to become a champion of civil liberties and an adviser to the tech community which has lately become radicalized against surveillance and, in the process, the worlds most famous privacy advocate. After he appeared on Twitter last September his first message was Can you hear me now? he quickly amassed some two million followers.

I feel like were sort of dancing around the leadership conversation, Snowden said to me recently as I sat with him at the ACLU offices. Over the past few months, we have encountered one another with some regularity, and while I cant claim to know him as a flesh-and-blood person, Ive seen his intellect in its native habitat. He is at once exhaustively loquacious and reflexively self-protective, prone to hide behind smooth oratory. But occasionally, he has let down his guard and talked like a human being. Im able to actually have influence on the issues that I care about, the same influence I didnt have when I was sitting at the NSA, Snowden told me. He claims that many of his former colleagues would agree that the programs he exposed were wrongfully intrusive. But they have no voice, they have no clout, he said. One of the weirder things thats come out of this is the fact that I can actually occupy that role. Even as the White House and the intelligence chiefs brand him a criminal, he says, they are constantly forced to contend with his opinions. Theyre saying they still dont like me tut-tut, very bad but they recognize that it was the right decision, that the public should have known about this.

Needless to say, it is initially disorienting to hear messages of usurpation emitted, with a touch of Daft Punkish reverb, from a $14,000 piece of electronic equipment. Upon meeting the Snowbot, people tend to become flustered there he is, that face you know, looking at you. That feeling, familiar to anyone whos spotted a celebrity in a coffee shop, is all the more strange when the celebrity is supposed to be banished to the other end of the Earth. And yet he is here, occupying the same physical space. The technology of telepresence feels different from talking to a computer screen; somehow, the fact that Snowden is standing in front of you, looking straight into your eyes, renders the experience less like enhanced telephoning and more like primitive teleporting. Snowden sometimes tries to put people at ease by joking about his limitations, saying humans have nothing to fear from robots so long as we have stairs and Wi-Fi dead zones in elevators. Still, he is quite good at maneuvering on level ground, controlling the robots movements with his keyboard like a gamer playing Minecraft. The eye contact, however, is an illusionSnowden has learned to look straight into his computers camera instead of focusing on the faces on his screen.

Heres the really odd thing, though: After a while, you stop noticing that he is a robot, just as you have learned to forget that the disembodied voice at your ear is a phone. Snowden sees this all the time, whether he is talking to audiences in auditoriums or holding meetings via videoconference. Theres always that initial friction, that moment where everybodys like, Wow, this is crazy, but then it melts away, Snowden told me, and after that, regardless of the fact that the FBI has a field office in New York, I can be hanging out in New York museums. The technology feels irresistible, inevitable. Hes the first robot I ever met; I doubt hell be the last.

Wizner, the head of the ACLUs Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, says that Snowden asked him to do some research on telepresence in their first conversation, back when he was still very much on the lam. Now that his situation has stabilized at least for the time being he and Snowdens small coterie of advisers are discussing ways they might use it for a widening range of purposes. Glenn Greenwald, one of Snowdens original journalistic collaborators, jokingly talks about taking the Snowbot on the road. I would love to let it loose in the parking lot of Fort Meade, where the NSA is headquartered, he said. Or to randomly go into grocery stores. More seriously, Snowdens advisers are in discussions about a research fellowship at a major American university. Already, the Snowbot has twice taken road trips to Princeton University, where he has participated in wide-ranging discussions about the NSAs capabilities with a group of renowned academic computer-security experts, rolling up to cryptographers during coffee breaks and dutifully posing for selfies.

For larger gatherings, Snowden usually dispenses with the robot, addressing audiences from giant screens. (He often opens with an ironic reference to Big Brother.) He is scheduled to make more than 50 such appearances around the world this year, earning speaking fees that can reach more than $25,000 per appearance, though many speeches are pro bono. Besides allowing Snowden to make a good living, his virtual travels on the public-lecture circuit are part of a concerted campaign to situate him within a widening zone of political acceptability. One of the things we were trying to do is to normalize him, says Greenwald. Normalize his life, normalize his presence. In 2014, Snowden joined Poitras and Greenwald on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit, and last year he was elected chairman. It serves as a base for his advocacy and gives him access to a staff of technologists with whom he has been working on encryption projects, tools intended to allow journalists to communicate with people that live in situations of threat in other words, people like Snowden himself.

Through a network of intermediaries chief among them Wizner, who acts as his advocate, gatekeeper, and talent agent in the United States Snowden is able to establish contact with almost anyone he desires to meet. Eds now getting a lot of people on the phone, and its broadening his horizons, says the author Ron Suskind, who has spoken with him on several occasions and recently had him lecture to a class he and Lawrence Lessig were teaching at Harvard Law School. Snowden also recently spoke to Amal Clooneys law class at Columbia, starred in an episode of the Vice show on HBO, and published a manifesto on whistle-blowing on the Intercept, the website Poitras and Greenwald started with the billionaire Pierre Omidyar. And he has been maintaining his presence on Twitter, where he has been playfully talking up Oliver Stones forthcoming film, Snowden, which will star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The biopics September release date matches up with Wizners timetable for mobilizing a clemency appeal to Obama. Were going to make a very strong case between now and the end of this administration that this is one of those rare cases for which the pardon power exists, Wizner said. Its not for when somebody didnt break the law. Its for when they did and there are extraordinary reasons for not enforcing the law against the person. He says that while no single event is likely to shift opinion in Washington, Snowdens activities work in the aggregate to further his cause.

One thing Snowden refuses to do, however, is apologize. If anything, the last three years have turned him more strident. Whereas he once espoused a fuzzy dorm-room libertarianism some of it was kind of rudimentary, Greenwald recalls today he offers a more traditional leftist critique of the deep state. On Twitter, he has been admiring of Bernie Sanders, acerbic about Hillary Clintons foreign policy, and bitingly sarcastic about her handling of classified emails. In February, he tweeted: 2016: a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs. He sees himself as part of a hacktivist movement, and he took pride when the anonymous source behind the massive cache of offshore banking data known as the Panama Papers cited Snowdens example. In his Intercept essay, he called such leaking an act of resistance.

WNYC recently staged a sold-out Friday-night event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, not far from Fort Greene Park, where some artists surreptitiously erected a Snowden bust last year. At the appointed time, the fugitive appeared on a screen at the front of an ornate opera hall. It was around 2:30 a.m. in Moscow, but Snowden looked wide-awake, wearing an open-collared shirt and blazer and his customary stubble. In an extraordinary and unpredictable way, he told the audience, my own circumstances show there is a model that ensures that even if were left without a state, we arent left without a voice.

When Snowden went public, one of the first people he sought out was a historical antecedent: Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers. He, too, was briefly a fugitive and faced Espionage Act charges, until they were dropped because of the illegal retaliatory actions of President Nixon. Now 85, Ellsberg was eager to talk to Snowden and they connected over an encrypted chat program.

I had the feeling that, as I suspected from the beginning, we really were kindred souls, Ellsberg told me.

Ellsberg, mindful of Mannings experience, advised Snowden to give up any thought of returning home. Snowden was inclined to agree. From the beginning, he had spoken fatalistically about the consequences of his actions. All my options are bad, Snowden acknowledged in his first interview in Hong Kong, which was published in the Guardian. If the American government didnt grab him, the Chinese might, just to find out what he knew. He hinted that the CIA might even try to kill him, either directly or through an intermediary like a triad gang. And thats a fear Ill live under for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be, Snowden said at the time.

He didnt have a plan, says Wizner. Snowden assumed that he would probably be silenced in one way or another, so he worked with a sympathetic programmer in the United States to design a website, supportonlinerights.com, which was to contain a letter addressed to the public. But instead, he more or less got away with it. After a nervy flight and an agonizing five-week wait in limbo at the Moscow airport, he was granted temporary asylum in Russia by President Vladimir Putin. Photos soon appeared in the Russian media showing Snowden pushing a grocery cart and looking slyly over his shoulder on a riverboat ride. It was an uneasy deliverance, though, one seemingly subject to Putins unpredictable geopolitical power considerations.

Snowden argues that he was put in Russia by the U.S. government, which canceled his passport while he was en route to Ecuador, trapping him in Moscow during a layover. But to critics, his dependence on Putin is discrediting. I am not saying that he is a Russian spy, but he is in a tough spot, says journalist Fred Kaplan, author of the recent book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War. He is in a position where, because of his captive status, he cant really say anything that terribly critical about his hosts, who happen to be some of the most sophisticated and intrusive cyberespionage hackers in the world. Many in the intelligence community darkly speculate about the nature of Snowdens accommodation with the FSB, the Russian security service, which is not renowned for its hospitality or respect for civil liberties.

Although Snowden acknowledges that he was approached by the FSB, he claims he has given them no information or assistance, and he vehemently denies he is anyones puppet. He cheered the release of the Panama Papers, which contained voluminous evidence of corruption in Putins inner circle. I have called the Russian president a liar based on his statements on surveillance, in print, in the Guardian, he said with an uncharacteristic flash of annoyance, when I asked whether he felt any constraints in discussing Russia. I have criticized Russias laws on this, that, and the other. Its just frustrating to get the question because its like, look, what do I have to do?

Snowden seems determined to refute predictions that he would end up broken, like so many whistle-blowers before him, or drunk and disillusioned, like a stereotypical Cold War defector. (He has claimed that he drinks nothing but water.) People think of Moscow as being hell on earth, he said during his Whitney visit. But when youre actually there, you realize its not that much different than other European cities. Their politics are wildly different, and of course really theyre problematic in so many ways, but the normal people, they want the same things. He says he does his own shopping and takes the metro. Family members come to visit. His longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, reunited with him in Moscow and has posted Instagram snapshots of her life there.

Last year, before Halloween, Mills posted a Photoshopped picture that posed the couple in front of FBI headquarters, with Snowden costumed as the capped protagonist of Wheres Waldo? As improbable as it may sound, he has told confidants that he doesnt think the U.S. government has managed to pin down his exact whereabouts. He says he has designed his new life around his unique threat model, minimizing his vulnerability to tracking by giving up modern conveniences like carrying a phone. He does not believe that hes shadowed all the time by the CIA, says Ellsberg, who has been in regular contact. But he does believe that he is in the sights of the FSB all the time, partly to keep him safe. Snowden is most at ease when hes on the internet, an environment he feels he can control. As a former systems engineer, he has been able to construct back-end protections that allow him to feel confident that he can evade locational detection, even when he is using the internet like a civilian. He has sometimes chatted via video on Google Hangouts.

Snowden is more wary about in-person meetings, typically conducting them in hotels like the Metropol near Red Square. More than a year after they began speaking, Ellsberg finally had the opportunity to meet Snowden in person, when he visited Moscow with an informal goodwill delegation that also included the actor John Cusack and the leftist Indian author Arundhati Roy. At the appointed time, Snowden called and said to meet him in the lobby of their hotel. Cusack took the elevator downstairs, and Snowden surprised him by getting on at the fourth floor. When they returned to the room, Ellsberg greeted Snowden by saying, Ive been waiting 40 years for someone like you.

Two days of marathon bull sessions and room-service dining ensued. Ellsberg tried unsuccessfully to get confirmation of some long-held suspicions about the extent of the NSAs spying on Americans. Periodically, Snowden would point to the ceiling, to remind the room that others were probably listening. Cusack and Roy later recounted the conversation in a 13,000-word essay, writing that when the meeting was over, Ellsberg lay down on Johns bed, Christ-like, with his arms flung open, weeping for what the United States has turned into a country whose best people must either go to prison or into exile.

The notion that Snowden has become, to some, a sort of mythic figure the Oracle of the Metropol is profoundly annoying to the people who actually hold the nations intelligence secrets. Id love to see him come back to the U.S. and take his medicine, says Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who has been deeply involved in both the legislative fallout from the NSA revelations and internal government discussions over the potential prosecution of Snowden. Litt says he sees the consequences of Snowdens actions on extremist message boards, which now exhort jihadis to use encryption. It cannot be disputed, he told me, that this has had immeasurable impact.

Snowden believes that officials like Litt are merely trying to scare the public into acquiescence. Last October, the two had a showdown of sorts when they spoke back-to-back at a conference at Bard College. Each time we have an election, its like another round of a game, Snowden told the students. Using a livecasting program designed for gamers that allows him to project illustrations, he filled the auditorium screen with an image of George W. Bush shaking hands with Obama. The policies of one president become the policies of another. Then he played a video clip of the cleric Anwar al-Awlakis son, a 16-year-old American citizen killed by a drone strike in Yemen. He cited a leaked 2015 email in which Litt addressed the hostile legislative climate, recommending keeping our options open for a change in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.

Surveillance is ultimately not about safety, Snowden said. Surveillance is about power. Surveillance is about control.

Litt opened his remarks by joking that he could sympathize with the act that went on Ed Sullivan after the Beatles. I can hear the NSAs opinion any day, one student stage-whispered, as he and many others got up to head for the exits. Litt called after them, saying he was disappointed with the disdain given that this is an academic environment. He then elaborated on the ominous sentiment expressed in his email.

Every time something bad happens, the finger gets pointed at the intelligence community, Litt said. There is a pendulum that swings back and forth, in terms of the public view of the intelligence community, between, You mean youre doing what? and Why didnt you protect us? And thats a pendulum thats going to swing again.

While much of Washington remains hostile to him, Snowden is far more hopeful about Silicon Valley and is increasingly focusing his efforts on influencing technology and the people who make it. Like me, they grew up with this stuff, he told me. They remember what the internet was like before everybody felt it was being watched.

The Snowden leak was like a gut punch for people across Silicon Valley, says Chris Sacca, a venture capitalist who invested early in Twitter and Uber and who now appears on the television show Shark Tank. Sacca was personally friendly with Obama, raising large sums for his 2012 campaign, but was shocked when he discovered the extent of the NSAs spying and has since become a vocal Snowden supporter. Last November, Sacca did an admiring interview with Snowden at the Summit at Sea, an invite-only weekend of seminar talks and techno dancing aboard a cruise ship, which was attended by the likes of Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet, and Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber. After fielding over an hour of tough questions, Sacca says, he got a resounding standing ovation from the room.

Even as Snowden captivated the audience on the boat, though, terrorists were mounting a bloody coordinated attack in Paris. The pendulum was swinging back. At first, Wizner says, Snowden was shaken he worried that the attacks had wiped out all of his progress. Almost immediately, anonymous security sources blamed encryption for giving cover to the attackers. (Subsequent reports suggest they may have been more reliant on primitive tactics, like using burner phones.) They dragged out all the old CIA directors, the line of disgrace, to suddenly try to reclaim a halo, Snowden told me. It did look really exploitative. For three weeks, he went quiet, posting just once to Twitter, quoting Nelson Mandela about triumphing over fear. Meanwhile, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik attacked in San Bernardino, and Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigration.

Wizner advised his client to be patient. Snowden sometimes says he thinks of his existence like a video game: a series of challenges that culminate in a final screen, where you either win or its game over. But political outcomes are never so final its an iterative process. In February, when Apple announced it was refusing to break into Farooks iPhone for the FBI, Snowden was suddenly scoring points again. (The @FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on #Apple to defend their rights, he tweeted, rather than the other way around.) In an open letter, Tim Cook, Apples chief executive, talked the way Snowden does about privacy, encryption, and government overreach. The next day, Snowden spoke at Johns Hopkins University, where hundreds of shivering students lined up to get into a packed auditorium. This is a case thats not about San Bernardino at all; its not a case thats about terrorism at all, Snowden warned. Its about the precedent.

Litt believes that, besides giving information to enemies, Snowdens disclosures have also had a radicalizing effect in the private sector. The technology and communications community has moved from a position of willingness to cooperate, he told me, to an attitude that ranges from neutrality to outright hostility, which is an extremely bad thing. Recently, Snowden has been working with technical experts who are mobilizing to fortify the internets weak spots, both through collaborations with academic researchers and back-channel conversations with employees at major tech companies.

In all of these conversations, Snowden is operating on the assumption that a truly private space on the internet could be easier to create than to legislate that it may be more fruitful to coax programmers to invent something that is difficult to hack than it would be to try to reshape the entire national-security bureaucracy so it stops trying. Im regularly interacting with some of the most respected technologists and cryptographers in the world, Snowden said. I believe that theres actually a lot more influence that results from those sorts of conversations, because so much of technology is an expert game.

The aspect of the Snowden leaks that most outraged technology experts was not the NSAs communications surveillance but its efforts to undermine encryption, which had broad impacts on computer security. That news has created a period of innovation in encryption, says Moxie Marlinspike, the San Franciscobased security specialist who developed Signal, the messaging program that Snowden likes to use to communicate. Marlinspike has become friendly with Snowden, whom he met in Moscow, where they had a lengthy discussion about the trade-offs between security and usability. (Snowden is always seeing holes hackers can poke through; Marlinspike wants to make encryption accessible to laypeople.) In April, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, announced that it had integrated the Signal protocol Marlinspike developed, allowing it to offer end-to-end encryption. Those sorts of technical decisions, like Apples strengthened encryption standards, affect the privacy of millions of customers.

But Snowden is skeptical of the motives of tech companies. Corporations arent friends of the people, corporations are friends of money, he said. He prefers to collaborate with academics and hacktivists, some of whom are helping him with projects he is developing for the Freedom of the Press Foundation. It already manages SecureDrop, a system for anonymously leaking documents, and the nonprofits technical staff is working with Snowden to develop other programs tailored to protect journalists and whistle-blowers. His goal with us is to start designing and prototyping what the tools of the future will look like, says Trevor Timm, the foundations executive director. One of Snowdens priorities, unsurprisingly, is improving the security of videoconferencing.

About once a week, the team meets on a beta-stage video platform, where they discuss the painstaking work of testing their technology, a probing process called dogfooding. As a prime target for hacking attacks, Snowden is in a unique position to appreciate extreme-threat models. He often comes up with exotic problems to solve and is able to bring in outside minds for confidential consultations. Were building small projects, Snowden says, but he cant help but see larger applications. He talks enthusiastically about virtual reality, which could soon supplant videoconferencing. In five years this shits going to blow your mind, Snowden told me. But he also sees potential dangers. Suddenly, youve got every government in the world sitting in every meeting with you.

Snowden is especially concerned about the monitoring power of Facebook, which acquired Oculus VR, the virtual-reality headset maker, for $2 billion. What if Facebook has a copy of every memory that you ever made with someone else in these closed spaces? he asked rhetorically. We need to have space to ourselves, where nobodys watching, nobodys recording what were doing, nobodys analyzing, nobodys selling our experiences.

It is clear that in virtual reality, Snowden sees more than just a work tool. Right now, the technology is not quite there, but this is the first step, the Snowbot told Peter Diamandis, the space entrepreneur and Singularity University co-founder, in an interview at this years Consumer Electronics Show. I have someone who is very close to me, Snowden explained, who was the victim of a serious car accident, and because of that they cant travel. Virtual reality could bring them together. Or it could allow him to visit home for Thanksgiving, overcoming what he calls the tyranny of distance.

More than one person told me that, after talking to Snowden for hours on end, they got the sense that he is lonely. His conversation is preoccupied with the theme of escape. He recently collaborated on a track with a French musician, delivering a spoken-word monologue on surveillance over an electronic beat, and recommended the title: Exit.

Snowden sometimes says that although he lives in Russia, he does not expect to die there, and he told me he is optimistic that he will find a way out, somehow. Maybe some Scandinavian country will offer him asylum. Maybe he can work out some kind of deal whether outright clemency or a plea bargain with the Justice Department. Wizner has been working with Plato Cacheris, a well-connected Washington defense attorney, but so far, there have been no official signals that the Justice Department would be willing to offer the kind of lenient terms Snowden would accept. And a window may be closing. He is unlikely to receive a more receptive hearing from Hillary Clinton, who has said he shouldnt be allowed to return without facing the music. As for Donald Trump: He has called Snowden a total traitor and suggested he should be executed. If Im president, he predicted last year, Putin says, Hey, boom youre gone.

So the comparatively thoughtful Obama may be Snowdens best hope, but even Snowdens allies concede that they doubt the outgoing president has the inclination to offer a pardon. There is an element of absurdity to it, Snowden told me. More and more, we see the criticisms leveled toward this effort are really more about indignation than they are about concern for real harm. He says he would return and face the Espionage Act charges if he could argue to a jury that he acted in the public interest, but the law does not currently allow such a defense. These people have been thinking about the law for so long that they have forgotten that the system is actually about justice, Snowden said. They want to throw somebody in prison for the rest of his life for what even people around the White House now are recognizing our country needed to talk about.

Earlier this year, Snowden was buoyed by an invitation from an unexpected source. David Axelrod, the presidents former top political strategist, asked him to appear at the institute he now runs at the University of Chicago. Beforehand, they had a video chat. The president of the United States closest advisers, Snowden told me later, are now introducing me and sharing the stage with me in ways that arent actually critical. Im not saying this to build myself up. Im talking about the recognition by even the people who have the largest incentives to delegitimize me as a person, that maybe we overreacted, maybe this is a legitimate conversation that we need to have.

Axelrod asked Geoffrey Stone, a liberal law professor who is friendly with Obama, to moderate the public talk. Stone is a member of the ACLUs National Advisory Council and the author of a book titled Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark, but he also served on Obamas commission to review the NSAs surveillance programs, an experience that gave him access to classified information and a dim view of Snowden. My view is that he cannot be granted clemency, because he did commit a criminal offense and it did considerable harm, Stone told me. The people who are celebrating Snowden have no understanding of the harm, for the reason that the people in the intelligence world cant really explain the harm to them. Snowden considered Stones position to be an example of regulatory capture, proof of the seductive power of security clearances. Secret knowledge, Snowden says, is a very intoxicating thing.

Still, Snowden was looking forward to the debate, if only because it illustrates his progress. Wizner, who considered the Axelrod relationship important to his future clemency push, attended the May event in person. Weve gone from the president saying Were not going to scramble jets for a 29-year-old hacker to talking with the presidents rabbi, Wizner said backstage as event staff set up computers and projection equipment. Thats a good journey for us.

Axelrod shambled in, looking sleepy-eyed as always, as students filled the auditorium and Wizner texted last-minute instructions to his client over Signal. Whatever you think about Edward Snowden and his actions, and the adjectives range from traitor to hero, Axelrod said by way of introduction, he has indisputably triggered a really vital public debate about how we strike a balance between civil liberties and security. He sat down in the front row as Snowdens bashful grin filled a large screen.

Snowden had already done one event that day, a cybersecurity conference in Zurich, and he seemed weary as Stone probed for logical weaknesses. The law professor asked when it was appropriate for a relatively low-level official in the national-security realm to take it upon himself to decide that it is in the national interest to disclose the existence of programs that have been approved To decide for himself that I think theyre wrong. Snowden gave his usual homilies about the Constitution, whistle-blowing, and civil disobedience. Do we want to create a precedent that dissidents should be volunteering themselves not for the 11 days in jail of Martin Luther King or the single night of Thoreau, he asked, but 30 years or more in prison, for what is an act of public service?

Stone pointed out that Congress could pass a law allowing defendants to make a whistle-blowing defense in Espionage Act cases but shows no signs of doing it. You believe in democracy, Stone said. But democracy doesnt agree with you. The professor jabbed and Snowden weaved, setting his jaw and taking swigs from a big plastic water bottle. But when the floor opened for questions, it was clear who had won the audience. One student after another got up to offer Snowden praise.

Did you expect to become a celebrity in this way? one asked.

If you go back to June 2013, Snowden said, I said, Look, guys, stop talking about me, talk about the NSA. But he added, Our biology, our brains, the way we relate to things, is about character stories. So they simply would not let me go.

Axelrod watched impassively, his fingers tented under his nose. The full effect of Snowdens performance did not become clear until a few weeks later, when Axelrod had Eric Holder the former attorney general, once Snowdens chief pursuer on his podcast, The Axe Files. Holder allowed that Snowden actually performed a public service, while Axelrod calmly presented Snowdens arguments.

I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done, Holder replied. But I think, you know, in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate.

Holders concession made international headlines. It didnt mean anything legally, but symbolically it spoke volumes. Political realities were starting to come into alignment with Snowdens virtual ones. From his computer in Moscow, Snowden tweeted:

2013: Its treason!2014: Maybe not, but it was reckless2015: Still, technically it was unlawful2016: It was a public service but2017:

*This article appears in the June 27, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

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Edward Snowdens Life As a Robot — NYMag

The 10 Biggest Revelations From Edward Snowden’s Leaks

One year ago, the Guardian published its first bombshell story based on leaked top-secret documents showing that the National Security Agency was spying on American citizens.

At the time, journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian never mentioned that they had a treasure trove of other NSA documents, nor that they came from one person. Then three days later, the source surprisingly unmasked himself: His name was Edward Snowden.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting based on Snowden’s information.

Image: John Minchillo/Associated Press

When asked if more revelations were in the pipeline, Greenwald always used to respond that yes, many more were coming and he wasn’t kidding. Over the next year, explosive stories began to trickle out of those documents. Here are the top 10 revelations of the year.

The very first story revealed that Verizon had been providing the NSA with virtually all of its customers’ phone records. It soon was revealed that it wasn’t just Verizon, but virtually every other telephone company in America.

This revelation is still one of the most controversial ones. Privacy advocates have challenged the legality of the program in court, and one Judge deemed the program unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian,” while another one ruled it legal.

The uproar caused by this first story has led President Barack Obama to endorse a reform to the program, and the House of Representatives to pass the first law that tries to change it.

The existence of PRISM was the second NSA bombshell, coming less than 24 hours after the first one. Initially, reports described PRISM as the NSA’s program to directly access the servers of U.S tech giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, among others.

Its reality was slightly different.

PRISM, we soon learned, was less less evil than first thought. In reality, the NSA doesn’t have direct access to the servers, but can request user data from the companies, which are compelled by law to comply.

PRISM was perhaps as controversial as the first NSA scoop, prompting technology companies to first deny any knowledge of it, then later fight for the right to be more transparent about government data requests. The companies ended up partially winning that fight, getting the government to ease some restrictions and allow for more transparency.

The British spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), taps fiber optic cables all over the world to intercept data flowing through the global Internet, we learned. The GCHQ works closely with the NSA, sharing data and intelligence in a program that’s codenamed Tempora.

Tempora is one of the key NSA/GCHQ programs, allowing the spy agencies to collect vasts troves of data, but for some reason, it has sometimes been overlooked. After a couple of months from the Tempora revelation, a German newspaper revealed the names of the companies that collaborate with the GCHQ in the Tempora program: Verizon Business, British Telecommunications, Vodafone Cable, Global Crossing, Level 3, Viatel and Interoute.

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are seated together at a G7 dinner in Brussels, on June 4. Their relationship has been tense since reports revealed that the NSA tapped Merkel’s phone.

Image: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press

Over the months, countless stories based on Snowden documents have revealed that the NSA has spied on numerous world leaders and foreign governments.

The German newsweekly Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA targets at least 122 world leaders.

Other stories over the past years have named specific targets like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazil’s President Dilma Roussef, and Mexico’s former President Felipe Calderon, the French Foreign Ministry, as well as leaders at the 2010 G8 and G20 summits in Toronto.

XKeyscore is a tool the NSA uses to search “nearly everything a user does on the Internet” through data it intercepts across the world. In leaked documents, the NSA describes it as the “widest-reaching” system to search through Internet data.

Encryption makes data flowing through the Internet unreadable to hackers and spies, making the NSA’s surveillance programs less useful. What’s the point of tapping fiber optic cables if the data flowing through them is unreadable? That’s why the NSA has a developed a series of techniques and tricks to circumvent widely used web encryption technologies.

The NSA, however, isn’t able to compromise the encryption algorithms underlying these technologies. Instead, it circumvents or undermines them, forcing companies to install backdoors, hacking into servers and computers, or promoting the use weaker algorithms.

In any case, technologists were alarmed.

“Even as the NSA demands more powers to invade our privacy in the name of cybersecurity, it is making the Internet less secure and exposing us to criminal hacking, foreign espionage, and unlawful surveillance. The NSA’s efforts to secretly defeat encryption are recklessly shortsighted and will further erode not only the United States’ reputation as a global champion of civil liberties and privacy but the economic competitiveness of its largest companies,” Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said at the time.

The NSA has at its disposal an elite hacker team codenamed “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO) that hacks into computers worldwide, infects them with malware and does the dirty job when other surveillance tactics fail.

Der Spiegel, which detailed TAO’s secrets, labelled it as “a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.” But they can probably be best described as the NSA’s black bag operations team.

TAO comes in for specific, targeted operations when the NSA can’t find intelligence or needs more detailed information on a target through its bulk surveillance programs. Before Snowden, most of their operations and techniques were shrouded in secrecy, and their secrets make for one of the most fascinating revelations.

When bulk collection or PRISM fails, the NSA had other tricks up its sleeve: It could infiltrate links connecting Yahoo and Google data centers, behind the companies’ backs.

This revelation was made famous mostly by a Power Point slide that included a celebratory smiley face.

This story truly enraged the tech companies, which reacted with much more fury than before. Google and Yahoo announced plans to strengthen and encrypt those links to avoid this kind of surveillance, and a Google security employee even said on his Google+ account what many others must have thought privately: “Fuck these guys.”

It’s not just about Internet data though. The NSA, following its unofficial motto of “collecting it all,” intercepts 200 million text messages every day worldwide through a program called Dishfire.

In leaked documents, the agency described the collected messages as a “goldmine to exploit” for all kinds of personal data.

Other documents also revealed that the NSA can “easily” crack cellphone encryption, allowing the agency to more easily decode and access the content of intercepted calls and text messages.

The NSA intercepts and stores all phone calls made in the Bahamas and Afghanistan through a program called MYSTIC, which has its own snazzy logo.

The Bahamas was revealed by The Intercept, Greenwald’s new website, while the second was revealed by WikiLeaks, which protested The Intercept’s decision to withhold the second country’s name.

The NSA also collects all phone calls’ metadata in Mexico, Kenya and the Philippines.

(H/T to the site Free Snowden, which has an extensive and detailed list of all the NSA revelations.)

Read more here:
The 10 Biggest Revelations From Edward Snowden’s Leaks

Edward Snowden Fast Facts – CNN

Mother: Elizabeth Snowden, federal court administrator

Other Facts:Dropped out of high school.

The Guardian reported that in 2009, Snowden got the first of several jobs with private contractors that worked with the National Security Agency (NSA).

Timeline:May 7, 2004 – Enlists in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces candidate.

September 28, 2004 – Is discharged from the Army Reserve without completing any training.

2013 – Works for Booz Allen Hamilton for less than three months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. Snowden is terminated on June 10, 2013.

May 20, 2013 – Snowden leaves for Hong Kong.

June 9, 2013 – Booz Allen Hamilton releases a statement confirming that Snowden has been an employee of their firm for almost three months.

June 17, 2013 – During a live online chat, the person identified as Snowden by Britain’s Guardian newspaper insists that US authorities have access to phone calls, e-mails and other communications far beyond constitutional bounds.

June 21, 2013 – Federal prosecutors unseal a complaint filed in US District Court in Virginia on June 14, 2013, charging Snowden with espionage and theft of government property.

June 22, 2013 – A senior US administration official says the United States has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek the extradition of Snowden.

June 23, 2013 – A source tells CNN that the US government has revoked Snowden’s passport.

July 24, 2013 – Russian news media reports that Russia has approved documents that would allow Snowden to enter the rest of the country while his temporary asylum request is considered.

August 1, 2013 – Kucherena tells CNN that Snowden’s application for political asylum for a year has been approved and he has left the Moscow airport.

October 31, 2013 – Snowden’s attorney Kucherena tells CNN that his client has been hired by an unnamed Russian website.

November 3, 2013 – A letter, purportedly written by Snowden, is published in the German magazine Der Spiegel. The letter, titled “A Manifesto for the Truth” says, “mass surveillance is a global problem and needs a global solution.”

August 7, 2014 – Snowden’s attorney announces that Snowden has been granted an extension to stay in Russia for three more years.

July 28, 2015 – The White House rejects a petition to pardon Snowden and maintains its position that Snowden should return to the United States. The petition contains over 167,000 signatures supporting Snowden.

Excerpt from:
Edward Snowden Fast Facts – CNN

Edward Snowden describes Russian government as corrupt …

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has delivered his most trenchant criticism yet of the Russian government, describing it unequivocally as corrupt.

His comments mean the proposed US-Russia summit in Helsinki on 16 July is potentially risky for him if Donald Trump was to request Vladimir Putin to hand him over.

Snowden is wanted in the US on three charges under the Espionage Act, carrying a minimum of 10 years each in jail. Putin could balance the propaganda value of having Snowden in Russia against providing Trump with an easy gift.

In an interview with the German daily Sddeutsche Zeitung Snowden, who has lived in Russia since 2013, said: The Russian government is corrupt in many ways, thats something the Russian people realise. Russian people are warm. They are clever. Its a beautiful country. Their government is the problem not the people.

Snowden faced criticism in the first couple of years after he arrived in Russia of not criticising the Putin government but he has gradually become more outspoken, including in his defence of journalists.

Russia is the only safe haven in the world for Snowden. China would not allow him access to the mainland when he was in Hong Kong in 2013. Neither Germany, where there is strong public support for Snowden, nor any other European country appears willing to fall out with the US by offering him sanctuary. If he made it to Latin America or anywhere else in the world, the US could apply economic pressure or send in a CIA team to kidnap him.

He said: Ive already accepted that I am going to spend my life dealing with enormous consequences for my decision to tell the public what I know. But if not for me, by all means, Germany should pass the necessary laws to allow future whistleblowers to find a safe harbour.

Snowden said if a Russian whistleblower was to turn up on chancellor Angela Merkels doorstep, she would protect them. But if an American whistleblower shows up on Merkels doorstep? That question has not been answered, Snowden said.

He expressed disappointment with Merkels public position on whistleblowers. Weve talked so much about Russia today and the disappointments and the challenges that the public is facing because of the problems of their government. What would it say to the world if the only place an American whistleblower can be safe is in Russia?

Asked about WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, with whom he is often compared, Snowden said: Im a reformist, hes a revolutionary. I dont want to burn the system down, if I believe it can still be saved.

Although Assange helped organise Snowdens escape from Hong Kong, the two hold many different views, including how much classified information should be published, with Snowden favouring a more selective approach.

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Edward Snowden describes Russian government as corrupt …

Leaks Connected to Edward Snowden Are Still Trickling Out …

(WASHINGTON) Whistleblower or traitor, leaker or public hero?

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out.

That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan, and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to counterterrorism, narcotics and money laundering both stories published by The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents.

The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have publicly released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, so we dont see this issue ending anytime soon.

This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever, Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff thats been leaked.

On June 5, 2013, The Guardian in Britain published the first story based on Snowdens disclosures. It revealed that a secret court order was allowing the U.S. government to get Verizon to share the phone records of millions of Americans. Later stories, including those in The Washington Post, disclosed other snooping and how U.S. and British spy agencies had accessed information from cables carrying the worlds telephone and internet traffic.

Snowdens defenders maintain that the U.S. government has for years exaggerated the damage his disclosures caused. Glenn Greenwald, a former journalist at The Guardian, said there are thousands upon thousands of documents that journalists have chosen not to publish because they would harm peoples reputation or privacy rights or because it would expose legitimate surveillance programs.

Its been almost five years since newspapers around the world began reporting on the Snowden archive and the NSA has offered all kinds of shrill and reckless rhetoric about the damage it has caused, but never any evidence of a single case of a life being endangered let alone harmed, Greenwald said.

U.S. intelligence officials say they are still counting the cost of his disclosures that went beyond actual intelligence collected to how it was collected. Evanina said intelligence agencies are finishing their seventh, classified assessment of the damage.

Joel Melstad, a spokesman for the counterintelligence center, said five U.S. intelligence agencies contributed to the latest damage assessment, which itself is highly classified. Melstad said damage has been observed or verified in five categories of information the U.S. government keeps classified to protect national security.

According to Melstad, Snowden-disclosed documents have put U.S. personnel or facilities at risk around the world, damaged intelligence collection efforts, exposed tools used to amass intelligence, destabilized U.S. partnerships abroad, and exposed U.S. intelligence operations, capabilities and priorities.

With each additional disclosure, the damage is compounded providing more detail to what our adversaries have already learned, Melstad said.

Steven Aftergood, a declassification expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said he thinks intelligence agencies are continuing to do Snowden damage assessments because the disclosures relevance to foreign targets might take time to recognize and understand. He said the way that intelligence targets adapt based on information revealed and the impact on how the U.S. collects intelligence could continue for years. But he said that any damage that Snowden caused to U.S. intelligence partners abroad would have been felt immediately after the disclosures began in 2013.

Moscow has resisted U.S. pressure to extradite Snowden, who faces U.S. charges that could land him in prison for up to 30 years. From exile, Snowden often does online public speaking and has been active in developing tools that reporters can use, especially in authoritarian countries, to detect whether they are under surveillance.

Snowden supporters say the government is exaggerating when it claims he took more than 1 million documents and far fewer have actually been disclosed.

I think the number of NSA documents that have been published is in the hundreds and not the thousands, said Snowdens lawyer, Ben Wizner. He said the government has never produced any public evidence that the released materials have cause genuine harm to U.S. national security.

The mainstream view among intelligence professionals is that every day and every year that has gone by has lessened the value and importance of the Snowden archives, Wizner said. The idea that information that was current in 2013 and a lot of it was much older than that might still alert somebody to anything in 2018 seems like a stretch.

Greenwald said the journalists were handed some 9,000 to 10,000 secret documents under the condition that they avoid disclosing any information that could harm innocent people, and that they give the NSA a chance to argue against the release of certain classified materials.

Weve honored his request with each document weve released, Greenwald said. In most cases, weve rejected the NSAs arguments as unsubstantiated, but always gave them the opportunity for input, and will continue to do so.

He said that in 2016, The Intercept announced a program to disclose Snowden documents in bulk and open the collection to journalists and other experts around the world. Greenwald said that since then, hundreds of documents have been disclosed at a time after careful reviews.

Original post:
Leaks Connected to Edward Snowden Are Still Trickling Out …

Edward Snowden: Trump not smart enough to collude with …

Classified document-leaker Edward Snowden isnt a Trump fan, but he also believes its unlikely that the president colluded during the 2016 campaign with Russia because he isnt that sophisticated.

The former National Security Administration contractor, now living in exile in Moscow, told the Intercept that people are asking for too much when they hope that the Mueller investigation is going to come up with kind of a smoking gun and say, Yes! Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, in the hotel room with the [explictive] tape!

You know thats not how the world works; life is not that simple, Mr. Snowden said in the interview published Friday.

Mr. Trump has called the exile a spy and a total traitor who should be tried for stealing and leaking classified documents on government surveillance in 2013, while Mr. Snowdens supporters have portrayed him as a hero.

In the interview, Mr. Snowden, who faces federal charges in the United States, said he doubted the president was clever enough to have engineered such a scheme.

And to be honest, everyone who has heard Trump speak for three minutes knows hes a wrecking ball, Mr. Snowden said. This does not sound like the kind of person that you would want to engage in some kind of complicated Manchurian Candidate, when, you know, the guy cant even remember what he was going to say at the end of a sentence.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating since May 2017 whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian or other foreign governments during the 2016 race.

Mr. Snowden added, But that doesnt mean that he didnt want to cooperate, that doesnt mean that he wouldnt do anything to achieve an advantage, he said. I just think we just need to be realistic about what an investigation can possibly find.

Original post:
Edward Snowden: Trump not smart enough to collude with …

Edward Snowden: There’s No One Trump Loves More Than …

Its clear Donald Trump is a huge fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But whistleblowerEdward Snowdensays Americans shouldnt get their hopes up that special counsel Robert Mueller is going to nail the U.S. president for colluding with the Kremlin.

Theres no one in this world that [Trump] loves more than the Russian president, said Snowden, who exposed eavesdropping by the National Security Agency five years ago and now lives in exile in Russia, a refugee from U.S. treason charges.

I think people are asking for too much when they hope that the Mueller investigation is going to come up with a smoking gun against Trump yes, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump in the hotel room with the piss tape, Snowden quipped in Fridays episode of the Deconstructed podcast at The Intercept. Thats not how the world works. Life is not that simple.

Snowden, speaking from Moscow, said he also doesnt believe Trump is the kind of crack double operator Putin would rely on.

To be honest, everyone who has heard Trump speak for three minutes knows hes a wrecking ball, he said. This does not sound like the kind of person that you would want to engage in some kind of complicated Manchurian Candidate spy operation, when the guy cant even remember what hes going to say at the end of a sentence.

That doesnt mean that he didnt want to cooperate, Snowden added. That doesnt mean he wouldnt do anything to achieve an advantage.

Snowden encouraged people including would-be leakers in the U.S. government to continue to struggle for change.

I believe that this world can be better. I believe that this world should be better. But its not going to get better unless we make it better, he said. And that requires risk. That requires hard work. That ultimately might require sacrifice.

Things change, he went on. If they can change for the worse, they can change for the better. If more good people are organizing… if were willing to draw lines that we will not allow people to cross without moving us out of the way, the pendulum will swing.

Check out the entire podcast here.

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Edward Snowden: There’s No One Trump Loves More Than …

Edward Snowden Asylum in Russia – Wikipedia

Edward Snowden Asylum in Russia is part of the global surveillance disclosures made by Edward Snowden. On June 23, 2013, Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Noting that his U.S. passport had been cancelled, Russian authorities restricted him to the airport terminal. On August 1, after 39 days in the transit section, Snowden left the airport. He was granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year. On August 7, 2014, six days after Snowden’s one-year temporary asylum expired, his Russian lawyer announced that Snowden had received a three-year residency permit. It allowed him to travel freely within Russia and to go abroad for up to three months. Snowden was not granted permanent political asylum, which would require a separate process.

Snowden left the Moscow airport on August 1 after 39 days in the transit section. He was granted temporary asylum in Russia for one year,[1] with extensions possible.[2] According to his Russian lawyer, Snowden went to an undisclosed location for security reasons.[3] The White House stated that it was “extremely disappointed,” and cancelled a previously scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.[4][5] Additionally, Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham urged President Obama to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, rejected that idea as “dead wrong.”[6]

In late July 2013, Lonnie Snowden said he believed his son would be better off staying in Russia, and didn’t believe he would receive a fair trial in the U.S.[7] In mid-October, he visited his son in Moscow, later telling the press that he was pleased with Edward’s situation, and still believed Russia was the best choice for his asylum, saying he wouldn’t have to worry about people “rushing across the border to render him.” Lonnie Snowden commented that his son was living comfortably in Russia and found Moscow “modern and sophisticated.”[8] Edward Snowden’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, announced on October 31 that his client had found a website maintenance job at one of Russia’s largest websites, but declined to identify the site. Jesselyn Radack, one of Snowden’s American lawyers, said she was unaware of any new job.[9] Asked about this by The Moscow Times in June 2014, The Guardian correspondent Luke Harding replied, “Kucherena is completely unreliable as a source. We [The Guardian] did the rounds of Russian IT companies when he made that claim last year and none of themnone of the big ones, at leastconfirmed this.”[10]

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who had traveled to Russia to give Snowden a whistleblower award, said that Snowden gave no storage devices such as hard drives or USB flash drives to Russia or China, and had carried four blank laptops with him to Hong Kong and Moscow as a diversion. U.S. officials said they assumed that any classified materials downloaded by Snowden had fallen into the hands of China and Russia, though they acknowledged they had no proof of this.[11] In an October 2013 interview, Snowden maintained that he did not bring any classified material into Russia “because it wouldn’t serve the public interest.” He added, “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents.”[12] In June 2015, however, The Sunday Times reported that British government officials anonymously claimed to the paper that Russia and China had cracked an encrypted cache of files taken by Snowden, forcing the withdrawal of British spies from live operations.[13] The BBC also stated that their sources told them British intelligence assets had been moved as a precaution after the Snowden leaks.[14] Glenn Greenwald charged that the report contained fabrications and did nothing more than quote anonymous British officials; he said parts were removed from the original post without The Times saying it did so.[15]

WikiLeaks released video of Snowden on October 11 taken during the Sam Adams Award reception in Moscow, his first public appearance in three months. Former U.S. government officials attending the ceremony said they saw no evidence Snowden was under the control of Russian security services. The whistleblower group said he was in good spirits, looked well, and still believes he was right to release the NSA documents.[16] In the video, Snowden said “people all over the world are coming to realize” that the NSA’s surveillance programs put people in danger, hurt the U.S. and its economy, and “limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and associate freely” as well as putting people “at risk of coming into conflict with our own government.”[17]

On October 31, German lawmaker Hans-Christian Strbele traveled to Moscow to meet with Snowden, whom he invited to testify before the German parliament to assist investigations into NSA surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone since 2002.[18][19][20] After the visit, Snowden indicated a willingness to testify, though not from Moscow as Germany requested. Snowden said he would rather give testimony before the U.S. Congress, his second choice being Berlin.[21]

Also in October, Glenn Greenwald stated that the U.S. revoked Snowden’s passport while he was in transit to Latin America and threatened other countries that might offer safe passage.[22] WikiLeaks representative Sarah Harrison, who accompanied Snowden from Hong Kong to Moscow, left Russia in early November after waiting until she felt confident he had situated himself and was free from government interference.[23]

On December 17, 2013, Snowden wrote an open letter to the people of Brazil offering to assist the Brazilian government in investigating allegations of U.S. spying, and added that he continued to seek, and would require, asylum.[24] Snowden wrote, “Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak … going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America!”[25] Brazil had been in an uproar since Snowden revealed that the U.S. was spying on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, her senior advisors, and Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras.[26] Rousseff and officials of the Brazilian foreign ministry said in response that they could not consider asylum for Snowden because they had not received any formal request.[27] A representative of the foreign ministry said that a fax requesting asylum had been sent to the Brazilian embassy in Moscow in July but it had not been signed and could not be authenticated.[28] David Miranda, the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald, launched an Internet petition urging the Brazilian president to consider offering Snowden asylum.[29]

Snowden met with Barton Gellman of The Washington Post six months after the disclosure for an exclusive interview spanning 14 hours, his first since being granted temporary asylum. Snowden talked about his life in Russia as “an indoor cat,” reflected on his time as an NSA contractor, and discussed at length the revelations of global surveillance and their reverberations. Snowden said, “In terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished … I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated.”[30] He commented “I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA … I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.” On the accusation from former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden that he had defected, Snowden stated, “If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public.”[30] In 2014, Snowden said that he lives “a surprisingly open life” in Russia and that he is recognized when he goes to computer stores.[31]

According to BuzzFeed, in January 2014 an anonymous Pentagon official said he wanted to kill Snowden. “I would love to put a bullet in his head,” said the official, calling Snowden “single-handedly the greatest traitor in American history.” Members of the intelligence community also expressed their violent hostility. “In a world where I would not be restricted from killing an American,” said an NSA analyst, “I personally would go and kill him myself.”[32] A State Department spokesperson condemned the threats.[33]

On Meet the Press in late January 2014, speculation arose from top U.S. officials in the House and Senate Intelligence Committees that Snowden might have been assisted by Russian intelligence,[34] prompting a rare interview during which Snowden spoke in his defense. He told The New Yorker “this ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd,” adding that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.”[35] Investigations by the NSA and the FBI found no evidence that Snowden received any aid.[36] Days later, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein stated that she had seen no evidence that Snowden is a Russian spy.[37] Germany’s Der Spiegel suggested the accusations were part of a smear campaign by U.S. officials. The accusations did not faze Snowden, who said “outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.”[38]

In late January 2014, U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, in an interview with MSNBC, indicated that the U.S. could allow Snowden to return from Russia under negotiated terms, saying he was prepared to engage in conversation with him, but that full clemency would be going too far.[39]

Snowden’s first television interview[40] aired January 26, 2014, on Germany’s NDR. In April 2014, he appeared on video from an undisclosed location during President Putin’s live annual Q&A exchange with the public. Snowden asked whether Russia intercepted, stored or analyzed individuals’ communications. Putin replied, “Russia uses surveillance techniques for spying on individuals only with the sanction of a court order. This is our law, and therefore there is no mass surveillance in our country.”[41] Benjamin Wittes in The New Republic described the exchange as “a highly-scripted propaganda stunt for Vladimir Putin”.[42] Snowden insisted his question was designed to hold the Russian president accountable.[43] In an op-ed for The Guardian, Snowden said his question was intended “to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion.” Snowden called Putin’s response “evasive”.[44] A few days later, The Daily Beast reported that Snowden himself “instantly regretted” asking Putin the “softball question”, which was crafted with several of his key advisers, and that he was mortified by the reaction. ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, one of Snowden’s closest advisers, told the Beast that Snowden hadn’t realized how much his appearance with Putin would be seen as a Kremlin propaganda victory. “I know this is hard to believe,” Wizner acknowledged. “I know if I was just watching from afar, I’d think, ‘Wow, they forced him to do this.’ But it’s not true. He just fucking did it.”[45] Asked six months later about the incident, Snowden conceded, “Yeah, that was terrible! Oh, Jesus, that blew up in my face. … And in the United States, what I did appearing at that Putin press conference was not worth the price.”[46]

In March 2014, the international advocacy group European Digital Rights (EDRi) said that the European Parliament, in adopting a Data Protection Reform Package, rejected amendments that would have dropped charges against Snowden and granted him asylum or refugee status.[47]

In May 2014, NBC’s Brian Williams presented the first interview for American television.[48] In June, The Washington Post reported that during his first year of Russian asylum, Snowden had received “tens of thousands of dollars in cash awards and appearance fees from privacy organizations and other groups,” fielded inquiries about book and movie projects, and was considering taking a position with a South African foundation that would support work on security and privacy issues. “Any moment that he decides that he wants to be a wealthy person,” said Snowden’s attorney Ben Wizner, “that route is available to him,” although the U.S. government could attempt to seize such proceeds.[49]

Also in May, the German Parliamentary Committee investigating the NSA spying scandal unanimously decided to invite Snowden to testify as a witness.[50] In September, opposition parties in the German parliament filed constitutional complaints to force the government to let Snowden testify in Berlin. Snowden had refused a proposed video conference from Moscow, saying he wants to testify only in Berlin and asking for safe conduct.[51][52][53]

On July 13, 2014, The Guardian published its first story based on an exclusive, seven-hour interview newly conducted with Snowden in a Moscow city centre hotel. Snowden condemned the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill announced to the UK’s House of Commons on July 10[54] bolstering the state’s right to keep personal data held by Internet and phone companies. Snowden said it was very unusual for a public body to pass such emergency legislation except during total war. “I mean we don’t have bombs falling. We don’t have U-boats in the harbor. It defies belief.”[55] The Daily Mail reported that Snowden had “caused fury” by attacking Britain. “His critics said the new surveillance Bill was being pushed through Parliament today largely because of his treachery in leaking Britain’s spy secrets.”[56] On July 13 and 17, The Guardian posted video clips, of about 2 minutes[55] and 14 minutes[57] in length, excerpted from the full interview. On July 18, The Guardian published a nearly 10,000-word edited transcript of their Snowden interview.[58] A year after arriving in Moscow, Snowden said he is still learning Russian. He keeps late and solitary hours, effectively living on U.S. time. He does not drink, cooks for himself but doesn’t eat much. “I don’t live in absolute secrecy,” he says. “I live a pretty open lifebut at the same time I don’t want to be a celebrity.” He does not work for a Russian organization, yet is financially secure thanks to substantial savings from his years as a well-paid contractor and more recently numerous awards and speaking fees from around the world.[59]

On August 7, 2014, six days after Snowden’s one-year temporary asylum expired, his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, announced that Snowden had received a three-year residency permit. It allowed him to travel freely within Russia and to go abroad for up to three months. Kucherena explained that Snowden had not been granted permanent political asylum, which required a separate process.[60]

In May 2015, Snowden’s lawyer Ben Wizner said that Snowden’s main source of income was speaking fees, which sometimes exceeded $10,000 per appearance.[61] In November 2015, Snowden said that he does not intend to play any role in Russian politics and wants to devote his focus to U.S. issues. During a panel event, he said, “people say I live in Russia, but that’s actually a little bit of a misunderstanding. I live on the Internet.”[62]

In the waning days of the Obama administration, former CIA Director Michael Morell suggested that Russia should extradite Snowden to the United States as a “gift” to Donald Trump. The comment drew harsh criticism by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which noted that Snowden had been granted an extension of his stay until 2020, and said what Morell proposed would be a betrayal.[63]

A senior U.S. official said in February 2017 that Russia was considering extraditing Snowden in order to “curry favor” with President Donald Trump. Snowden cited the comment as evidence that he was not a Russian spy.[64]

Edward Snowden Asylum in Russia – Wikipedia

Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme – BBC News

Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the CIA, left the US in late May after leaking to the media details of extensive internet and phone surveillance by American intelligence. Mr Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, faces espionage charges over his actions.

As the scandal widens, BBC News looks at the leaks that brought US spying activities to light.

The scandal broke in early June 2013 when the Guardian newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans.

The paper published the secret court order directing telecommunications company Verizon to hand over all its telephone data to the NSA on an “ongoing daily basis”.

That report was followed by revelations in both the Washington Post and Guardian that the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, to track online communication in a surveillance programme known as Prism.

Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency GCHQ was also accused of gathering information on the online companies via Prism.

Shortly afterwards, the Guardian revealed that ex-CIA systems analyst Edward Snowden was behind the leaks about the US and UK surveillance programmes.

He has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

The GCHQ scandal widened on 21 June when the Guardian reported that the UK spy agency was tapping fibre-optic cables that carry global communications and sharing vast amounts of data with the NSA, its US counterpart.

The paper revealed it had obtained documents from Edward Snowden showing that the GCHQ operation, codenamed Tempora, had been running for 18 months.

GCHQ was able to boast a larger collection of data than the US, tapping into 200 fibre-optic cables to give it the ability to monitor up to 600 million communications every day, according to the report.

The information from internet and phone use was allegedly stored for up to 30 days to be sifted and analysed.

Although GCHQ did not break the law, the Guardian suggested that the existing legislation was being very broadly applied to allow such a large volume of data to be collected.

GCHQ and NSA eavesdropping on Italian phone calls and internet traffic was reported by the Italian weekly L’Espresso on 24 October. The revelations were sourced to Edward Snowden.

It is alleged that three undersea cables with terminals in Italy were targeted. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta called the allegations “inconceivable and unacceptable” and said he wanted to establish the truth.

After fleeing to Hong Kong, Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post that the NSA had led more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, including many in Hong Kong and mainland China.

He said targets in Hong Kong included the Chinese University, public officials and businesses.

“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Mr Snowden was quoted as saying.

Claims emerged on 29 June that the NSA had also spied on European Union offices in the US and Europe, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine.

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The magazine said it had seen leaked NSA documents showing that the US had spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the 27-member bloc’s UN office in New York.

The paper added that it had been shown the “top secret” files by Edward Snowden.

One document dated September 2010 explicitly named the EU representation at the UN as a “location target”, Der Spiegel wrote.

The files allegedly suggested that the NSA had also conducted an electronic eavesdropping operation in a building in Brussels, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council were located.

It is not known what information US spies might have obtained. But observers say details of European positions on trade and military matters could be useful to those involved in US-EU negotiations.

The German government summoned the US ambassador on 24 October – a very unusual step – after German media reported that the NSA had eavesdropped on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

The allegations dominated an EU summit, with Mrs Merkel demanding a full explanation and warning that trust between allies could be undermined. She discussed the matter by phone with US President Barack Obama. He assured her that her calls were not being monitored now and that it would not happen in future. But the White House did not deny bugging her phone in the past.

Past surveillance by secret police – whether Nazi or communist – has made Germans very sensitive about privacy issues. Mrs Merkel grew up in the former East Germany, where the Stasi spied on millions of citizens.

France’s President Francois Hollande meanwhile expressed alarm at reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by the US.

The Guardian later reported that the NSA had monitored the phones of 35 world leaders after being given their numbers by another US government official. Again, Edward Snowden was the source of the report.

A total of 38 embassies and missions have been the “targets” of US spying operations, according to a secret file leaked to the Guardian.

Countries targeted included France, Italy and Greece, as well as America’s non-European allies such as Japan, South Korea and India, the paper reported on 1 July.

EU embassies and missions in New York and Washington were also said to be under surveillance.

The file allegedly detailed “an extraordinary range” of spying methods used to intercept messages, including bugs, specialised antennae and wire taps.

The Guardian report also mentioned codenames of alleged operations against the French and Greek missions to the UN, as well as the Italian embassy in Washington.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that activities to protect national security were “not unusual” in international relations.

US allies in Latin America were angered by revelations in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper on 10 July that the NSA ran a continent-wide surveillance programme.

The paper cited leaked documents showing that, at least until 2002, the NSA ran the operation from a base in Brasilia, seizing web traffic and details of phone calls from around the region.

US agents apparently joined forces with Brazilian telecoms firms to snoop on oil and energy firms, foreign visitors to Brazil, and major players in Mexico’s drug wars.

Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Chile all demanded answers from the US.

But the revelations on Latin America kept coming, and in September more specific claims emerged that emails and phone calls of the presidents of Mexico and Brazil had been intercepted.

Also, the US had been spying on Brazil’s state-owned oil firm Petrobras.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to the US in the most high-profile diplomatic move since the scandal hit.

Documents leaked to the Washington Post in mid-August suggested the NSA breaks US privacy laws hundreds of times every year.

The papers revealed that US citizens were inadvertently snooped on for reasons including typing mistakes and errors in the system,

In one instance in 2008, a “large number” of calls placed from Washington DC were intercepted after an error in a computer program entered “202” – the telephone area code for Washington DC – into a data query instead of “20”, the country code for Egypt.

Later in August, the Washington Post reported that US spy agencies had a “black budget” for secret operations of almost $53bn in 2013.

In January 2014, the Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News reported that the US had collected and stored almost 200 million text messages per day across the globe.

A National Security Agency (NSA) program is said to have extracted and stored data from the SMS messages to gather location information, contacts and financial data.

The documents also revealed that GCHQ had used the NSA database to search for information on people in the UK.

The programme, Dishfire, analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments and names from electronic business cards, according to the report.

Through the vast database, which was in use at least as late as 2012, the NSA gained information on those who were not specifically targeted or under suspicion, the report says.

The revelations came on the eve of an expected announcement by President Obama of a response to recommendations by a US panel on ways to change US electronic surveillance programmes.

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Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme – BBC News

Edward Snowden: I got a security clearance faster than half …

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified intelligence to reporters in 2013, taunted the Trump administration for taking over a year to obtain permanent security clearances for some of the presidents top advisers.

I got a security clearance faster than half of this White House, Mr. Snowden, 34, tweeted Monday.

Mr. Snowdens razzing came in response to recent news reports involving President Trumps administration and its inability so far to obtain permanent security clearances for dozens of White House officials and political appointees, including Jared Kushner, the presidents son-in-law and close adviser, and Rob Porter, the recently terminated White House staff secretary.

More than a year into the Trump administration, upwards of 40 people have relied on temporary security clearances granting them interim access to classified information pending the results of ongoing FBI-conducted background checks, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Porter included, The Washington Post and CNN both reported Friday.

The White House has defended the delayed turnaround in Mr. Kushners case as completely normal. Skeptics have pointed at past reports involving his previously undisclosed conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyack, however, as well as other incidents that could potentially complicate his ability to clear any hurdles keeping him from a permanent security clearance.

Mr. Snowden enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2004, but he broke both of his legs during basic training and was discharged four months later. He took a job the following year as a security guard at a NSA facility, albeit after obtaining a high-level security clearance upon passing a polygraph examination and background check, Wired reported previously. He subsequently worked for the CIA and had been employed as a NSA contractor holding a top-secret security clearance when he began leaking classified intelligence in 2013, including documents exposing the extent of the U.S. intelligence communitys international surveillance operations.

Mr. Snowden was charged with espionage by the Obama administration in connection with leaking classified intelligence, but was granted asylum by Russia in 2013 and has avoided prosecution by residing there ever since.

Mr. Trump was highly critical of Mr. Snowden before taking office, and he previously called him a traitor, a disgrace, a coward, a piece of human garbage, a liar and a fraud and a spy who should be executed, among other unpleasantries.

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Edward Snowden: I got a security clearance faster than half …